Gareth Williams delighted his audience at our 2021 annual lecture with his illuminating insights into the history, architecture and art of some of Shropshire’s country houses. Our virtual tour of these prestigious properties, illustrated by many instructive documents, drawings and photographs, was enhanced further by Gareth’s in-depth knowledge of his material, much of which was researched at Shropshire Archives, which he put across in his naturally engaging and enthusiastic style. Gareth has kindly donated a copy of his book The Country Houses of Shropshire which is available to view at Shropshire Archives, or can be purchased through the publishers Boydell & Brewer.
Neil Clarke led us on a fascinating and informative guided walk around Little Wenlock on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. We covered a lot of ground including the parish church which houses the county’s earliest cast-iron grave slab, the Royal Arms of George IV, and the Forester memorial east window; the range of the village’s domestic buildings (16c-20c); the historic road pattern; and remains of the industrial history of the area. It was a very interesting and enjoyable tour.
We were delighted to be able to repeat our visit to Pitchford Hall this summer – our first in-person event for 20 months due to the pandemic. As before, we were expertly taken through the house and ground by four guides and given a delicious tea afterwards.
We held our 2021 Annual General Meeting online via Zoom and were delighted to have 26 Friends attend. This was a special event as we had been unable to hold our AGM in 2020 due to COVID-19. Through the magic of the online polling system, we were able to conduct our essential business, update our Constitution and elect the officers and members of the Committee.
After the AGM, we heard a most interesting and informative talk by local archaeologist Nigel Baker about Shrewsbury Abbey and its waterfront onto the River Severn. Nigel is a very engaging speaker and his illustrated presentation was greatly appreciated.
We were delighted to welcome back Dr Kate Croft to deliver our annual lecture ‘Women of Excellent Understanding: The Wives and Daughters of the Lunar Society‘. The talk looked at some of the Lunar Society wives and daughters to consider the role they played in their husbands’ businesses as well as their scientific investigations and philosophical thought. We learned about Mary Priestley, Honora Edgeworth, Sally Wedgwood and her daughter Sarah, and the Peggy and Ann, the two wives of James Watt. Kate’s clear presentation of her research left us in no doubt that these women most certainly did play an important role.
We enjoyed a fascinating and informative guided tour of Chillington Hall and gardens, a cream tea on the terrace in glorious sunshine, followed by a tractor ride to the lake to enjoy Capability Brown’s landscaping and ‘eye-catcher’ architectural features in the park. The Hall has been the home of the Giffard family for over 800 years; the present Georgian house is the third to have occupied the site.
Described as Britain’s finest half-timbered house, Pitchford Hall was owned by the Colthurst family for more than 500 years before being sold in 1992. Now on the ‘at Risk’ register, the house has been bought back by Rowena Colthurst and her husband, who are embarking on the massive task of saving it, following 25 years of neglect. The house is named after a natural pitch well in the grounds. Prince Rupert hid from the Roundheads in the priest-hole here during the Civil War and Princess (later Queen) Victoria played in the Tudor-style treehouse.
We had a very good visit. We were split into four groups each with our own guide who were very knowledgeable and gave us a very detailed view of the house and its history. Tea and cake afterwards was delicious.
We were delighted to be able to hold our Annual General Meeting in the Moser Library building at Shrewsbury School. This was followed by a guided tour of the very special Taylor Library kindly hosted by the Taylor Librarian and Archivist Dr Robin Brooke-Smith and his assistant Naomi Nicholas. We also saw items from the school archive and its collection of water colours in the gallery of the Moser Library where we enjoyed afternoon tea. Our tour concluded with a visit to the school chapel built in 1882.
Local historian and our newsletter editor Andrew Pattison presented a very informative overview of the industrial history of Coleham at the Barnabas Centre which was an excellent introduction to our tour of Coleham Pumping Station. The gentlemen volunteers at the Pumping Station demonstrated their enthusiasm and expert knowledge in guiding us round the building and describing the impressive machinery which was surprisingly immaculate. Electric motors in lieu of steam enabled us to see some action which added to the sense of wonder at the ingenuity of the design. An excellent afternoon enjoyed by 30 people.
We enjoyed a delightful and informative afternoon at Shrewsbury Cathedral discovering how the Roman Catholic faith was persecuted and later emancipated in both a national and county perspective. Helen Haynes provided an overview of the key developments and the records that are available at Shropshire Archives. Father Phillips described the history of the building and how it has developed since it was built in 1856, and led us on a tour of the cathedral.